49ers vs. Rams score, takeaways: Deebo Samuel, DeMeco Ryans' defense lead San Francisco to division victory
The two rivals are now both 2-2 in the NFC West
The Rams entered Monday night's Week 4 finale with a chance to get a two-game lead on the 49ers in the NFC West. Instead, they watched as San Francisco seized control of the night and, perhaps, the division.
Deebo Samuel was the predictable star of the show for Kyle Shanahan's offense, but it was DeMeco Ryans' defense that really owned the prime-time spotlight. Sacking Matthew Stafford a half-dozen times and forcing the Rams quarterback into another half-dozen near-interceptions, San Francisco cruised to a 24-9 victory, improving to 2-2 on the year and dropping Los Angeles to the same record ahead of Week 5.
Here are some key takeaways from Monday night's big 49ers victory:
Why the 49ers won
If you want the short answer, it's this: they have Deebo Samuel and a defense. Maybe the NFL's best, in the latter regard. Kyle Shanahan's offense wasn't necessarily firing on all cylinders, with Jimmy Garoppolo largely staying in the background while letting Samuel (115 receiving yards) create his own space. Jeff Wilson Jr., meanwhile, was effective but relatively quiet as the top ball-carrier. And yet DeMeco Ryans' unit was in peak form from start to finish. Dre Greenlaw was a tackling machine, Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam were flying off the edge, and emerging safety Talanoa Hufanga snagged a late Stafford throw for an easy, clutch pick-six. The play-making group limited the Rams to a measly 3.5 yards per play, completely eliminated their run game and had Stafford uncomfortable for much of the evening.
Why the Rams lost
Sean McVay's offense was battered, bruised and wholly off-rhythm. Down two starting linemen coming into the game, the Rams lost their interim center to yet another injury, and Matthew Stafford responded unfavorably. After taking a 3-0 lead on the opening drive, the QB got zero help on the ground, nor from sluggish starting wideout Allen Robinson. Later, despite a steady connection with Cooper Kupp, Stafford went from managing the Rams' offensive problems to becoming one, forcing throws while under pressure and somehow ending the night with "just" two turnovers. Kupp was the only starter to show up on that side of the ball, wasting an otherwise solid effort from the "D," which tilted the time-of-possession battle in L.A.'s favor and kept the 49ers from converting even half their third-down attempts.
Somehow down just one score with over six minutes to play, the Rams had an opportunity to get back in it after Stafford hit three consecutive throws to reach San Francisco's 44-yard line. But then he kept his eyes locked on Kupp while throwing a quick strike off his back foot, and Hufanga easily jumped the route for the pick-six, giving the 49ers a comfortable 24-9 lead and, essentially, the ballgame. The home team's defense won most of the night, but their takeaway in that spot was especially clutch.
Play of the game
With under three minutes left in the first half, Garoppolo found Samuel for what initially looked like a modest gain, but the receiver proceeded to break through and away from a slew of Rams defenders, showcasing his elite skillset as both a runner and pass catcher to put San Francisco up 14-6 ahead of the break:
The 49ers (2-2) will hit the road to take on the Panthers (1-3), who fell to the Cardinals on Sunday. The Rams (2-2), meanwhile, will return home for an afternoon showdown with the Cowboys (3-1), who may or may not have Dak Prescott back under center following Sunday's win over the Commanders.
Niners improve to 2-2 with this win, while the Rams drop to 2-2 with the loss. I believe every team in the division is now 2-2.
No idea how Stafford avoided a sack there, let alone managed to get the ball to Henderson near the sideline. Looks like we'll get a few more plays here, but the game is pretty much over. Basically just bettors and fantasy managers with stuff on the line.
Well-deserved praise for 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans. His unit is balling.
Last year, DeMeco Ryans had one of the NFL's most injured defenses.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 4, 2022
Didn't matter. Figured out ways to do more with less and produced a top-5 unit.
A couple upgrades this year, better health (so far), and I think he's got the best defense in the NFL.
That man can coach.
That's a fumble. That's gonna be the game. Niners can't run the clock out because the Rams have two timeouts, but it's a two-score game and there's likely not gonna be enough time for LA even if it gets the ball back.
Oh boy Stafford tried to give the final chance away right there. Fred Warner had himself a pick-six. Just went right through his hands.
Nice job by Stafford stepping up through the pocket to find Kupp over the middle. Drive extended, so one more chance here for the Rams to keep hope alive.
Down goes Stafford. Bosa came screaming around the edge and force him off his spot, then Hassan Ridgeway broke through the middle of the line to get him on the ground.
Tyler Higbee had the first down at first but in trying to gain more yards after the catch, got dragged back a yard behind the line. Sets up a big third down here.
Niners score.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 4, 2022
It's 24-9 with 6:27 left to play.
Stafford tries to go with the quick screen... and Talanoa Hufanga picks it off and takes it to the house. He is an absolute breakout star early this season for the 49ers defense.
Arik Armstead is out for the rest of the game. That is a huge development in a game where the interior of the Rams offensive line has struggled badly.
73.1% of Jimmy Garoppolo's passing yards tonight have come after the catch. Most of any QB in Week 4.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 4, 2022
SF misses the field goal. 17-9 with 8:38 left to play.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 4, 2022